2023/11/19: From Hiroshima, Kagura live performance to come to Aratani Theatre for free, Nov. 19, 2PM

The Japanese American Cultural & Community Center in Los Angeles will host Kagura stage performance at Aratani Theatre, 244 South San Pedro Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012, on Sunday, Nov. 19, 2023, from 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm.

Titled as Kitahiroshima presents KAGURA: Divine Tales from Japan, the Kagura stage performance is presented by Town of Kitahiroshima in Hiroshima Prefecture.

Tickets are free. RSVP is required.

This is a rare opportunity to experience the magic of Hiroshima Kagura, a dynamic traditional performing art that combines dramatic storytelling, live music, dazzling costumes, high-energy dancing, and more.

Nov. 19 program will present two of the most famous Hiroshima Kagura plays: Yamata-no-Orochi and Momiji-gari.

In Yamata-no-Orochi, watch a powerful god take on a fearsome eight-headed snake demon bent on devouring a beautiful maiden, and in Momiji-gari, you’ll be transported back in time to a lavish maple leaf-viewing party whose charming hostesses are more than meets the eye.

Kagura is a traditional performing art that celebrates and expresses gratitude for the bounties of nature.

The ancestors of the Japanese people believed that everything that happened was because of the gods. During the autumn harvest, crops were used as offerings to the gods, and festivals were held all over Japan. These festivals included kagura as a gesture of gratitude to the gods for a plentiful harvest.

It was during this period in history that Shinto Shrines were being built around the country, and kagura spread with it. Today, the art and legacy of kagura continue in many different shapes and forms, passed down from generation to generation from the Shinto priesthood to the local community.

The Kagura program on Nov. 19 is called “Geihoku Kagura” (Northern Hiroshima) and has been preserved and passed along in Hiroshima Prefecture through approximately 150 groups.

Furthermore, numerous competitions have been held and at present, it is the type of Kagura gathering the most attention.

Though the performers have to study and work, they attend practice two to three times a week and perform at festivals and events on the weekends.

In Kitahiroshima area, there are said to be over 70 kagura plays at present, including prewar period programs and those created during the postwar period.

Musical accompaniment for kagura consists of a large and small drum, a gong, and a flute. Surprisingly, kagura has no sheet music. Instead, accompanists learn to play by watching and listening to their predecessors. This is also the reason why kagura music varies from troupe to troupe.

In addition to spoken dialogue, kagura also contains songs that are chanted during lively dance scenes. These songs are ancient Japanese songs that heavily reference Japan’s beautiful landscapes and convey the emotions of the scene.

Yamata no Orochi
A Story of the Desperate Struggle to Grow Rice

This Kagura is a story set in ancient Japan about the peoples’ desperate attempt to protect their rice fields from the ravages of a raging, flooded river. Rice, the staple of the Japanese diet, requires fertile soil, sunshine, and a sustainable, clean water source to flourish.

The eight-headed serpent, Yamata no Orochi, symbolizes the mountains and their plentiful reserves of water, as well as the water that flows from the mountains.

Farmers plant rice seedlings in the spring and wait for the autumn, harvest season. However, if the summer is plagued by heavy rains before the harvest season, the rainwater rushes from the mountains and spills into the rice fields, flooding them and ruining the crops. Serious floods like these are being compared to the serpent swallowing a beloved daughter in the story.

A Story Born from One of Japan’s Most Beautiful Seasons

This Kagura performance illustrates how much the climates and seasons of Japan enrich the hearts of the Japanese people. Cold winters are followed by warm springs, bringing beautiful pale pink and white cherry blossoms.

Each year, small parties are held under the cherry trees, called hanami (cherry blossom viewing parties). Hot and humid summers give way to crisp autumns and their vibrant red maple leaves, or momiji. Similar to hanami, small gatherings are also held under the maple leaves called momiji-gari (autumn foliage viewing parties).

KAGURA: Divine Tales from Japan is presented by the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center, Town of Kitahirohima in Hiroshima Prefecture; sponsored by Hiroshima Kenjinkai of Southern California; patronized by Consulate General of Japan in Los Angeles, JAPAN HOUSE Los Angeles, Japan Foundation Los Angeles, Government of Hiroshima Prefecture.